Your Avocado Toast Habit Is Ruining The Planet
As I sat here in front of the computer reading The News, scattering crumbs from my daily avocado toast on my keyboard, I came across a disturbing headline, per Jezebel: Our Love Of Avocados Is Destroying The Environment. Swallowing a bite of Hass avocado mashed atop Trader Joe's Sprouted Multigrain Bread, drizzled with Turkish honey and sprinkled with red pepper flakes, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper, I felt a pit of despair in my stomach in lieu of the omega-3s that should have been cozily nestled inside.
According to Marketplace, global demand for avocados, particularly those grown in Mexico, is way up, which has led to Mexican farmers planting avocado trees in such a way "that's threatening important forestlands and water supplies."
The AP's Mark Stevenson described to Marketplace a typical sight in Western Mexico that illustrated the intensity of the avo boom:
You can often just see these small country, two-lane roads and they’re just sometimes almost bumper-to-bumper with these big farm trucks coming down carrying crates of avocados. And what Mexico has just done is signed a series of agreements with China, which allowed lower tariffs and increased imports of avocados. And that has people somewhat concerned. Demand from the U.S. market has caused disarray before. Imagine what demand from China would do?
Well, demand from China is up: imports of Mexican avocados in China have been growing by about 200 percent annually, reports the AP. According to statistics from Fresh Fruit Portal, "15% more avocados were sold in the first 24 weeks of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015...The retail and food service trade used a record amount of avocados. The trend continues and 2016 will reach or exceed this author's forecast of 2.5 billion pounds." Nearly 80% of the world's avocados are grown in Mexico.
Thus, prices for Mexican-grown avocados are extremely high too, so the bonafide cash crop is an extremely desirable route for enterprising farmers. Who could blame them, really? But this had led to the planting of avocado saplings in areas that have sensitive forests, as Stevenson said, some of which support valuable animal and plant life, including the beautiful Monarch Butterfly.
Mario Tapia Vargas, a researcher at Mexico's National Institute for Forestry, Farming and Fisheries Research, told the AP that chopping down pine trees to make room for avocado trees is a huge problem, and that "a mature avocado orchard uses almost twice as much water as fairly dense forest."
Now, Delish, who went with the much more alarmist headline, "Why You Need to Stop Eating Avocados Immediately," half-heartedly suggested that you could start buying Hass avocados from California, though "you might have to pay a bit more for them," or, shockingly, "switch to sweet potato toast." Lol, no.
But simply swapping Mexican avocados for locally grown California avocados is not going to be easy, either. Earlier this summer, a heat wave killed a bunch of avocado trees in Southern California. According to the California Avocado Commission, it takes it takes 14 to 18 months to grow a single avocado, so the effects of the heat wave will be felt into 2017, too. This, on top of our state's horrible drought, has predicted a dire future for the world's best fruit.
Despite what misguided East Coasters believe, avocado on anything will never be passé, so we don't know how to cope with this information. In the meantime, I'm going to see if any avos have fallen from my neighbor's tree onto the sidewalk.